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    Nijo Castle in the heart of Kyoto includes Ninomaru Palace and several beautiful Japanese gardens. Nijo Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and forms part of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)” listing.

    In 1603 Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shogun, ordered the construction of the Nijo Castle. It was to be his official residence while staying in Kyoto. However, it was not until 1626 that Nijo Castle was completed for the third Shogun, Iemitsu. To aid in the completion of the castle several structures were transferred from Fushimi Castle. At the time of its completion, Nijo Castle featured a five story donjon (tower), which was struck by lightning in 1750 and destroyed in the subsequent fire.

    Higashi-Ote-mon Main Entrance Important Cultural Property

    Higashi-Ote-mon Main Entrance Important Cultural Property

    Today Nijo Castle occupies 275,000 square meters. The defensive structures that remain are the Outer Moat, Outer Wall with two defensive gates including the main gate Higashi-Ote-mon and two turrets.  Within the walls there is the Inner Moat, Inner Walls, Ninomaru Palace, Honmaru Palace and four gardens.

    Ninomaru Palace

    The main attraction of Nijo Castle is Ninomaru Goten (Palace), a National Treasure. Ninomaru Palace consists of 6 buildings in a diagonal line, with 33 rooms, over 800 tatami mats and covering 3,300 square meters. Many of the rooms within the palace have stunning paintings that are sensitive to light, so no pictures can be taken within the palace.

    Sections of the floor near the entrance to the palace feature uguisubari (nightingale floors) that were specifically designed to make a loud bird like screech when walked on. This was designed to provide the guards with a warning of sneak attack.

    Ninomaru Palace Nijo Castle Kyoto

    Ninomaru Palace Nijo Castle

    Nijo Castle Gardens

    Nijo Castle features four gardens: Ninomaru Garden, Honmaru Garden, Green Garden and Seiryu-en Garden. In addition there is a plum tree grove and a cherry tree grove.

    Ninomaru Garden Nijo Castle Kyoto

    Ninomaru Garden Nijo Castle

    Ninomaru Garden is the oldest garden design, which was designed by tea master and landscape architect Kobori Enshu (1579-1647). It features a large central pond with three islands; Horai-jima (Island of Eternal Happiness), Tsuru-jima (Crane Island) and Kame-jima (Turtle Island). In addition there are numerous strategically placed large stones and feature pine trees. Ninomaru Garden is located next to the Ninomaru Palace, between the two remain set of fortifications (walls and moats). Ninomaru Garden has consistently ranked in the top ten Japanese gardens by the “Journal of Japanese Gardening”.

    Central Pond of Ninomaru Garden with one of the four stone bridges Nijo Castle Kyoto

    Central Pond of Ninomaru Garden with one of the four stone bridges Nijo Castle

    Honmaru Garden dates to Meiji Period (1868-1912).

    Seiryu-en Garden with tea house Nijo Castle Kyoto

    Seiryu-en Garden with tea house Nijo Castle

    Seiryu-en Garden is a relatively recent garden design, being constructed in 1965 in the northern part of the Nijo Castle grounds. The 16,500 square meter garden features two tea houses and more than 1,000 large stones. Seiryu-en Garden was created for official guest of the City of Kyoto or significant cultural events. Seiryu-en Garden has ranked as high as the fifth in the “Journal of Japanese Gardening”.

    Seiryu-en Garden Nijo Castle Kyoto

    Seiryu-en Garden Nijo Castle

    Nijo Castle Significant Structures

    Kara-mon Gate Important Cultural Property) Nijo Castle Kyoto

    Kara-mon Gate Important Cultural Property) Nijo Castle Kyoto

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